The story reads much like a 90’s rom-com. Traumatic brain injury, loss of memory, forgetting your spouse, romance ensues.
But it’s real life for one Oklahoma couple.
Four years ago, 55-year-old Angela Sartin-Hartung was walking across an intersection in the upper East Side of Manhattan, New York, when she was struck by an NYPD traffic enforcement vehicle.
According to her husband Jeff Hartung, the accident nearly cost Angela her life.
“Her head penetrated the windshield of the New York Police Department traffic vehicle before being thrown to the ground as the vehicle stopped,” Jeff told POPSUGAR. “Unconscious, bleeding profusely, unresponsive, and not breathing.”
Thankfully an ambulance driver saw Sartin-Hartung get hit, and was able to be at her side within seconds, getting her breathing again and working on her before she was transported to the hospital. There she was put on life support with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). She stayed in a medically-induced coma for about four weeks with a poor prognosis.
When Angela awoke, it became immediately apparent that there was significant memory loss; nearly 17 years worth, to be exact. She still believed she was married to her first husband, who died in 1998, and also thought her daughter, who is a teenager, was still a toddler. She had no memories of Jeff or marrying him in 2000.
In the years that followed, the couple moved from New York to Oklahoma in an effort to both regain old memories and make new ones.
“People don’t always get to see all the grace and mercy and love that can come out of tragedy,” Hartung told The Daily News. “We want to show the other things that come out of a tragedy as well.”
After years of work, including Jeff walking alongside Angela as she had to grieve the loss of her husband afresh as well as her father, who died a few years ago, the two were able to really start reconnecting in a significant way. So much so that on June 16 of this year, they renewed their marriage vows in Central Park.
“We had to start all over again: friendship, trust, affection, hope, faith,” said Jeff, “all the things which built the relationship the first time. I was 100 percent responsible for making it all happen again as she just wasn’t capable the few years following the accident.”
What a beautiful testament to the power of marriage vows and deep, abiding love. Even when the person you’ve loved for almost two decades can’t remember you or any of the times you’ve shared, and can’t reciprocate your love yet, to press on in such a faithful way is breathtaking.
“My memory is still completely gone, and it takes me a lot to remember to get excited about things, but I have pictures all over the house of Jeff and me, and he’s just such an awesome man. It makes me cry,” Angela shared.
We wish this couple all the best on the second part of their lives together!
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.